Art, Morality, Music, and Fallout Open Open Thread



Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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26 Responses

  1. Avatar karl says:

    Heroin is not an immoral song and it killed no one, it isn’t a call to action (which would make it immoral).  Fools tried heroin because the musicians they idolized used it; heck, that’s how Charlie Parker got scads of people hooked — and he never wrote a song about it.

    It’s the call to action.  But if you want to make the point that involuntary heroes are responsible for what their admirers do, that’s another story.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    The artist creates his own moral universe.  I like this movie a lot, even though way too many of its jokes fall flat, because it takes that cliche seriously enough to examine it what it really means.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      The scene where Cheech first yells out directions from the audience and they’re good? I mean, really good? That’s where the movie turned for me and I realized that it wasn’t funny.Report

  3. Avatar Chris says:

    To the extent that art is a behavior, it seems strange to argue that it can’t be immortal. But art is also an object, and the moral status of objects is an interesting topic for discussion.

    For example, objects like art can and often do outlive not only their creators, but every single member of their intended audience (the people of a time, and perhaps a place). A piece of art might even outlive their children, their children’s children, their children’s children’s children, and so on, to the point where the conditions that caused the act (if not the object) to be immoral no longer obtain (maybe heroin has been wiped out?). Is it still immoral then?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      To the extent that morality is culturally dependent (now that’s a can of worms right there) one could easily argue that a work of art could be Moral! in this century and Immoral! in that one (or vice-versa) or, more interestingly, thought to have moral content in that one and known to be merely a matter of taste in this one (or vice-versa).Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’m not sure what it means for an object to be immoral without consequences. Acts, I assume, could be immoral regardless of their consequences because they have intentions behind them, but objects? Maybe the intention behind their creation? But this seems inadequate, because one could imagine an object that is created for immoral reasons that ends up achieving a bunch of highly moral ends once it’s entirely separated from its creator. What would its status be then? Is it still an immoral object? What would that mean? The act of creating it might still be immoral, but the object itself?

        Like I said, the morality of objects is an interesting topic of discussion. There are all sorts of issues that come up that shed light on moral issues more broadly. Since a work of art is both an act and an object, these seem like relevant considerations. The different time periods thing was simply meant to highlight them.


        • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

          I don’t think that you need consequences to make an artwork immoral. A work of art is a speech act, and one that can attempt someone to persuade someone to a point of view. A speech act comes with a speaker and an intention. One intended to promote immorality, such as “Triumph of the Will,” is immoral, whether or not it succeeded in convincing anyone. Just as someone running a racist blog is doing something immoral even if it doesn’t succeed in persuading anyone.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      A very good point.
      Performance art would have a different moral character than other art, due to a series of actions involved.Report

  4. Avatar dhex says:

    <i>My argument was that if art can inspire action, then the art is likely to share the moral content (if any) of the associated actions. </i>

    i dunno man, about 1 billion weddings featuring “every breath you take” beg to differ.Report

  5. Avatar Scott says:

    Hollyweird came down of smoking in TV and movies bc it encourages the behavior so it doesn’t seem much different than songs.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    How are we defining art? If I give a speech that portrays Jews as the scourge of society and rally people to exterminate them, is that moral?
    Does the answer change if I put the speech to song?Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      … and does the answer change if there are no Jews in your society?

      (Japan went through an episode of anti-semitism in the 1990’s, according to my Jewish History Teacher. I actually doubt that was really what was going on… but at least one anime is kinda, really, anti-semetic).Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Was “Birth of a Nation” (or “Triumph of the Will”) an “immoral” movie?

      I’ve no problem categorizing it (them) as such.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I wasn’t really seeking to answer in either the affirmative or the negative. I suppose my point, if I had one, was that art can be as moral, immoral, or amoral as anything else. If there is a supposition that works of FICTION somehow change the equation, I’m curious to hear that argument.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          I’d put those under art as propaganda… and the propaganda having a morality of wrong, with the art as “I ‘unno” (I’d have to watch).

          HOWEVER, in the category of fictional art — the type that sends people to therapy for years is probably immoral.

          The type that gives people heart attacks? Definitely Immoral (particularly if not surrounded by caution tape)

          The type that causes Charlie Sheen to bug the FBI about a Japanese art flick? (probably immoral, but much less so than the aforementioned. The FBI’s response: “why are you bothering us? this was filmed in japan…”)Report

  7. I’m sensing a future alliance between Jaybird and Tipper Gore…Report